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URL filtering software comes under fire

Well, it's almost Christmas, and it seems that a lot of peeps are preparing to log on t'Internet on Christmas Day, ready for the big sales (opens in new tab)that start on the M&S Web site and several other portals. Are they mad? -Ed.

It's quite topical, then, that eChannelLine reports (opens in new tab) that the commercial Web site filtering software that many companies install to stop staff from surfing to inappropriate sites is coming under fire.

Not for being poor at what they do, but, if anything, being too good, as the Canadian newswire says that several repressive regimes are starting to use these applications to censor political content.

According to the University of Toronto (opens in new tab), it's not just regimes like Burma and China that are using URL blocking software, but countries as diverse as Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

The bad news, says the Uni, is that the software producers have broadened their markets to cater to non-democratic regimes that essentially violate human rights.

According to the Uni, over in Tunisia, the government there is using Secure Computing's SmartFilter (opens in new tab)technology to block citizens' access to news and opposition Web sites. Fortunately for punters in these countries there are several ways to by-pass URL blockers.

These include commercial proxy applications like Steganos Anonym (opens in new tab), plus a variety of commercial and free Proxy (opens in new tab)Web site services.

I wonder if Secure Computing are aware of what their software is being used for? If they weren't aware before, I suspect its management is aware of the issue by now...